Continued disparity seen in school district’s projected spending per pupil

Continued disparity seen in school district’s projected spending per pupil
A breakdown of 11 school districts' projected spending per pupil for the 2023-24 school year. (Chart by Robert Pelaez)

Spending per student in North Shore school districts will continue to show a wide disparity in the 2023-2024 school year despite a large increase in state aid, according to an analysis by Blank Slate Media.

The range of spending per pupil in the 11 public school districts in the North Shore ranges from more than $47,000 to less than $24,000, according to the analysis.

The districts will receive more than $204 million in state aid for the 2023-24 school year thanks to a 7.1% increase in assistance to New York’s school districts. The overall state aid for those 11 will increase by an average of $4.2 million or 31.6%.

Herricks will receive $26.7 million in state aid in the coming school year,  followed by Port Washington’s $19.2 million, Great Neck’s $14.9 million, Mineola’s $14.6 million, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park’s $12.1 million, Roslyn’s $12 million, Floral Park-Bellerose’s $10.3 million, North Shore’s $9.7 million and East Williston’s $7.4 million, according to the budget figures.

Long Island as a whole will see a $771 million increase in state aid as part of a budget that provides $31.3 billion in school assistance – a $2.1 billion increase from last year. While foundation aid attempts to close the gap between school districts’ spending per pupil, the disparity continues to grow on a hyperlocal level.

The North Shore School District is projected to allocate roughly $47,627 for each of its anticipated 2,527 students next year, the most among analyzed districts.

The Floral Park-Bellerose School District is projected to allocate the fewest per student, $24,250, out of the 11 districts, though projected 2023-24 enrollment was not provided by the district as of Friday.

Other school districts in the analysis that did not provide projected enrollment for the 2023-24 school year are Mineola, Sewanhaka, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park and Herricks.

The data used for all districts include the approved 2023-24 budgets and either enrollment projections for 2023-24 or the most recent 2022-23 enrollment figures.

The analysis did not take into account property tax values, special education programs, adult education programs, English as new or secondary language programs, or other external factors aside from the overall budget and how many students were enrolled in the district.

Floral Park-Bellerose has the fewest enrolled students out of the 11 districts with 1,603. While East Williston with the second-fewest projected enrollment figures, 1,621 students, the district is anticipating spending $42,627 per pupil the second-highest in the analysis.

The North Shore School District is followed in spending per pupil by Great Neck at $40,443, Roslyn at $39,334, Mineola at $38,140, Port Washington at $35,634, Manhasset at  $35,334, Sewanhaka at $31,492, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park at $28,519 and Herricks at $27,327.

Districts with projected enrollment figures that anticipate a decrease in students for the 2023-24 school year include Great Neck, Roslyn, North Shore and Port Washington. Great Neck is projected to decrease from 6,821 to 6,729, Roslyn from 3,294 to 3,240, North Shore from 2,552 to 2,527 and Port Washington from 5,270 to 5,171.

The districts will spend an average of $35,425 per pupil for the upcoming school year, an increase from the average of $34,243 from the 2022-23 school year, according to the figures. The average enrollment for each district is 3,757, a projected increase from the 3,706 from the current school year.

Floral Park-Bellerose and New Hyde Park-Garden City Park are also districts made up of two PreK-6 schools and have two of the three lowest enrollment figures and the two lowest budgets in the analysis.

Floral Park-Bellerose has the largest percentage increase out of the districts, growing by 7.9%, from $36,013,163 in 2022-23 to $38,872,797 this year. Sewanhaka, made up of six high schools, has the largest dollar increase, growing from $227,351,685 in 2022-23 to $244,691,452 this year. 

All of the districts’ budgets increased by an average of 4.82% from last year, with only Mineola’s decreasing by $353.

Alan Singer, a professor of education and history at Hofstra University, told Blank Slate Media said the disparity between certain school districts on the North Shore is a microcosm of a much larger issue in America.

“Part of what we see is money going to support the education of the kids who are already the most privileged,” Singer said. “The real question is, should your zip code determine your education?”

Higher-income districts such as North Shore, Great Neck, Roslyn and East Williston tend to place higher in national district ranks. The Great Neck School District was ranked as Niche’s top school district throughout New York for the second consecutive year in October.

The other local districts ranked highly by Niche included Roslyn (No. 4), Herricks (No. 7), Manhasset (No. 9), East Williston (No. 10), North Shore (No. 22) and Port Washington (No. 23).

Property values in certain towns, such as the Town of North Hempstead, Singer said, is a “fundamental inequality” and that students in districts made up of lower-income families should not have their education impacted because of it.

Possibilities to ensure more equal financial resources for districts and their students, he said, include having a countywide school tax or eliminating property taxes and using the state income tax to fund schools.

“We wouldn’t say that a poor community shouldn’t get substandard fire or police services,” Singer said. “Why is it that in communities with fewer resources, their children get poor educational services? It seems to me that this is a fundamental flaw in how we finance schools.”

Historical breakdown of Long Island school districts post World War II and real estate are two main factors, Singer said, as to why he believes the solutions he presented have not been applied.

“ I think what we’re looking at is a series of issues that continue to plague the United States and continue to plague Long Island,” he said.

Singer also addressed the growing diversity in Nassau County and the Town of North Hempstead.

When asked what the analyzed school districts will look like in the next decade or so, Singer said people can expect the trends of more “South and East Asian” families, a trend that correlates with data from the 2020 Census.

“These families have been moving into the North Shore and that’s been changing the demographics of communities and schools,” he said. “My guess is that we’re going to see relative population stability, but we’re going to see different ethnic groups in the North Shore schools.”

Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, told Blank Slate Media that the quality of education on the North Shore and Nassau County has been one of the “magnets” that attract Asian American families to come and live on Long Island.

Nassau County is giving these people what they are looking for in terms of the ‘suburban dream,’” Levy said in a phone interview. “Asian Americans have been part of literally changing the face of suburban communities all over the country.”

When asked what districts projected to spend less per pupil next year can do to keep pace with higher-income ones, Singer said officials from each area have been and will continue to be creative in stretching a budget.

“Districts are already being creative and know what other districts are doing,” he said. “The issue is changing how we finance education regionally and nationally.”

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